Written by Karin Slaughter — Keeping tabs on the myriad plot strands in a Karin Slaughter novel is like knitting with jelly, and number eight in the American author’s Will Trent series is a particularly slippery customer.
Will hasn’t been around since 2013 and Unseen – although the years between have allowed this best-selling author the time to produce a couple of standalone books, including the outstanding Cop Town. That gap may prove something of a handicap for both followers of the series and newcomers, because three years is a long time to keep the minutiae of a character in mind, and reading this there will be times when you might feel you’ve been out of the loop.
Trouble is, Will Trent’s a hugely complex character and understanding those complexities is vital if you are to keep up with the blistering speed of the narrative and its pot pourri of switchbacks and blind turns. Thankfully, there is plenty of back story liberally scattered throughout, though sorting out the new revelations from the old is a bit of a conundrum.
A body is discovered in an empty Atlanta warehouse which has been earmarked for a huge new development. One of the investors is high-profile basketball star Marcus Rippy, and he and Will have recent history following an investigation which culminated in local hero Rippy walking away from a vicious rape case with his reputation intact.
The murder victim is an ex-cop, Dale Harding, felled by the spikey end of a doorknob, no less, but bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate that another female victim has disappeared. Judging by the sheer volume of blood, she must be close to death herself. She’s left a handbag behind, and a Glock is discovered near to a recently torched car abandoned in the building’s car park and belonging to Harding. It’s that gun, and the revelation of who it is registered to, that sends Will’s world crashing down around his ears.
It’s a clever author who can send her story in and out of focus, deftly tipping the balances so that we are never really certain of the truth until the bitter – and I mean bitter – end. As the action seesaws between present day and flashback, the revelations come thick and fast. Slaughter toys with the timelines like a skilled angler and hooks you in along the way.
This may be Will’s story, but new Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner Dr Sara Linton is destined to look on in horror as it all unfolds. She is slap bang at the heart of the action, but she is also Will’s girlfriend and is none too happy when he keeps her at arm’s length. So she bullishly endeavours to go it alone. Sara is a well-balanced, intelligent and loving woman – a complete contrast to the toxic relationship that haunts Will’s past and, it appears, his present too. Honestly, there are times when you feel like taking Will aside and giving him a bloody good talking to!
Relationships, be they happy, abusive, professional, romantic or downright dangerous, are the life blood of an absorbing book. Slaughter is at the top of her game here and she delivers a book that is sure to sell well and satisfy her hordes of faithful fans but the flurry of final revelations left this reader feeling a little cheated although the promise of a further instalment has tempered that disappointment somewhat.
For a totally different take on crime in Georgia, try the recently published The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars